Sepsis induces a dysregulated neutrophil phenotype that is associated with increased mortality

Jaimin Patel*, Elizabeth Sapey, Dhruv Parekh, Aaron Scott, Davinder Dosanjh, Fang Gao Smith, David Thickett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
140 Downloads (Pure)


Background. Neutrophil dysfunction in sepsis has been implicated in the pathogenesis of multiorgan failure; however, the role of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) remains uncertain. We aimed to determine the sequential changes in ex vivo NETosis and its relationship with mortality in patients with sepsis and severe sepsis. Methods. This was a prospective observational cohort study enrolling 21 healthy age-matched controls and 39 sepsis and 60 severe sepsis patients from acute admissions to two UK hospitals. Patients had sequential bloods for the ex vivo assessment of NETosis in response to phorbol-myristate acetate (PMA) using a fluorometric technique and chemotaxis using time-lapse video microscopy. Continuous data was tested for normality, with appropriate parametric and nonparametric tests, whilst categorical data was analysed using a chi-squared test. Correlations were performed using Spearman’s rho. Results. Ex vivo NETosis was reduced in patients with severe sepsis, compared to patients with sepsis and controls (). PMA NETosis from patients with septic shock was reduced further () compared to controls. The degree of metabolic acidosis correlated with reduced NETosis (), and this was replicated when neutrophils from healthy donors were incubated in acidotic media. Reduced NETosis at baseline was associated with an increased 30-day () and 90-day mortality () in sepsis patients. These findings were accompanied by defects in neutrophil migration and delayed apoptosis. Resolution of sepsis was not associated with the return to baseline levels of NETosis or migration. Conclusions. Sepsis induces significant changes in neutrophil function with the degree of dysfunction corresponding to the severity of the septic insult which persists beyond physiological recovery from sepsis. The changes induced lead to the failure to effectively contain and eliminate the invading pathogens and contribute to sepsis-induced immunosuppression. For the first time, we demonstrate that reduced ex vivo NETosis is associated with poorer outcomes from sepsis.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4065362
Number of pages10
JournalMediators of Inflammation
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2018


  • Sepsis
  • Neutrophils

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology


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